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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Minister tells Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora that authorities back home have not given up on Ebola, as erroneously claimed by the New York Times

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

The Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations and Coordinator of the African Union Committee of Ten ( C-10) on the UN Security Council Reform, Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu,  has told Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora that the Government of Sierra Leone, under the inspiring leadeship of President Ernest Bai Koroma, was more than determined to win the battle against the Ebola Scourge presently ravaging the West African Sub-continent.

The Minister described as  mischievous a recent report in the NEW YORK TIMES  which stated that international medical  authorities in Sierra Leone had  given up on Ebola, which has killed thousands of people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.



Addressing members of the Mabohanday Organization and hundreds of guests who had attended the Organization’s Fundraising Dance and Cultural Show at Franklin Township, Somerset , New Jersey last Saturday, Minister Kabs-Kanu , who also owns and publishes the Cocorioko Newspaper , said that the New York Times report did not reflect the position of the Sierra Leone Government. The Minister told his audience, amidst cheers, that  President Koroma and government were very determined  to win the battle and and they are  hopeful that the Ebola virus would be contained and ultimately defeated. He therefore appealed to Sierra Leoneans not to lose hope and to continue praying for the nation . Mr. Kabs-Kanu was the Grand Chief Patron at the occasion, which drew Sierra Leoneans from different parts of the Continental USA. 



Minister Kabs-Kanu said that as a manifestation of the Government’s determination to defeat the Ebola scourge,  the Government imported 20  more ambulances  this weekend  to convey the sick to treatment centres being built around the country and 10 hearses to pick up dead bodies from homes. 

 The C-10  Coordinator also called on his audience to disregard much of the nonsense being written by disgruntled and unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans in online forums and the social media . He said that these comments were designed not only to  belittle  government’s efforts to address the scourge, but damage the reputation of the Government. He  described  the writers as detractors , who want to see the government fail. He told the crowd to remain optimistic and join Ebola initiatives in their communities so that “We  can all  fight and defeat this dangerous scourge as a team. ”

The Chief Patron of the occasion, Rev. Dr. Victor Fakondo, a pharmacist and  the Proprietor of the Marie Technologies Nursing Institute of New Jersey, who is also one of the leaders of the Concerned Citizens Fighting the Ebola Outbreak, addressed the program. He said that with Ebola ravaging their country, it was imperative for all Sierra Leoneans to unite and be patriotic and help to fight the Ebola problem. The Chief Patron said that when any nation faces such a problem like the Ebola outbreak, citizens should join hands to find a solution.



The Pharmacist said that Sierra Leoneans cannot claim to be committed to the Ebola fight while  not participating in the many initiatives in the community designed to mobilize support for the Ebola fight.  He admonished every  Sierra Leoneans to  become a part of the Defeat Ebola initiative  by joining  and taking  active part  in  the crusade to rid Sierra Leone of Ebola. He was confident  that with united action, the battle against Ebola would be won.

Earlier, the Rev. Sam Pratt of Maryland, prayed fervently for Sierra Leone, praying for God’s mercies to help the nation overcome the Ebola scourge.


President Koroma Should Stay Away From Ebola Areas

Sunday, July 27th, 2014


By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop) : 

When Lesser Fever was raging and claiming the lives of many Sierra Leoneans in Kenema District, during the rule of ex-President Tejan Kabba(h) and his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), there were never calls for the then President to pay visits to Lesser Fever areas. When the eleven years war was going on, there were never calls for Tejan Kabba(h) to visit Kailahun township itself!

But now with the Ebola virus, SLPP apologists are shouting from atop the Sam Bangura building for President Ernest Bai Koroma to cancel his August visit to the United States of America and visit the epicentres of the Ebola virus. What many of those who are now calling for the President to visit the Ebola areas are feigning ignorance of is the principle of “Delegated Responsibility” in governance.

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The President does not need to put himself in harm’s way to show how committed he is to the fight against the Ebola virus. President Koroma does not need to visit Ebola patients and hug them or shake their hands just to show them that he cares for their plights. What is expected of him (which is what he has been indefatigably doing since the outbreak to date) is to marshal resources, both financial and human, at the disposal of the state in the fight against the Ebola virus.

That brings me to the issue of “Delegated Responsibility” in governance. Since the outbreak of the Ebola virus, the Minister of Health Miatta Kargbo, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Brima Kargbo and other medical officials have been visiting Kailahun and Kenema Districts. They have been coordinating with stakeholders and Civil Society Organizations in the fight against the Ebola virus. And now the newly sworn-in Resident Minister East, Maya Kaikai, is now at the epicentre of the Ebola virus with the mandate from President Koroma to back up and prop-up the Ebola Response Team in the eastern parts of the country.

Added to that (or should I rightly write “those”?) above, President Ernest Bai Koroma has shown the highest degree of transparency and accountability in the manner in which donations are handled. Monies and items donated towards the anti-Ebola cause are not done in camera but publicly. And such donations have been going towards the fight against the Ebola virus. In fact, the local Awoko newspaper has been tabulating the financial contributions in the spirit of both transparency and giving the public the right to know how much has been pumped into the Ebola fight. And to ice that accountability cake further, many CSOs have been tasked and financed to engage in nationwide sensitization campaigns, especially in the Ebola areas.

So what else can President Ernest Bai Koroma do to show that he cares and is in sympathy with Ebola victims and their loved ones? Asking the President to visit Ebola areas is like Nigerians asking their President, Goodluck Jonathan, to visit Boko Haram’s headquarters alone just to prove to the parents of the abducted Chibok girls that he really cares about their plights. Or it is like asking the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to visit the current theatre of war between Israel and Palestine alone and announced!

Yes, indeed, Freedom of Expression is a right which nobody or any government has the right to curtail in a democracy like ours. But people, in exercising that right, should do so in a reasonable, sensible and logical manner. It doesn’t follow that because every Sierra Leonean is endowed with an anus means sane people should strip and squat at the PZ area, during rush hours, to answer to nature’s call!

Okere Adams’s Defection Personifies SLPP’s 2018 Annihilation

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)

Whether it is because he is now a mendicant, or because of joblessness or the mere thought and even the frightfulness of being in the political wilderness until the second coming of Christ; the fact is: Okere Adams, who was one of the architects of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)’s coming back to power in 1996 after nearly twenty-nine years’ absence from the Seat of State, has defected to the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).

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When it comes to issues of unadulterated SLPPness one could put the biggest question mark on people like Dr Sama Puawui Banya (who got fame and questionable wealth in the APC government of Siaka Stevens and a little taste of Joseph Saidu Momoh’s) and current SLPP deputy Chairman and Leader Dr Prince Alex Harding (who once stood for national election under an APC symbol but was beaten hands down by a stark illiterate called Tomboyekeh); but with Okere Adams his SLPPness can’t be questioned. Just like how Musa Gendemeh of cursed (“blessed” would be a misnomer in this circumstance) memory was terrorizing his own Mende brethren in Kenema District and Francis M. Minah was doing the same with his Mende people in Pujehun District in the name of perpetuating the longevity of the APC of yore; Okere Adams from 1996 to 2007 was doing the same in Tonkolili District to his own Temne brothers and sisters with the aim of perpetuating SLPP rule!

Just like Dr Sama Banya who benefitted immensely under Siaka Stevens because he was one of Stevens’s blue-eyed men (I won’t use the English idiom “blue-eyed boys” because boys are not normally seen in national politics); Okere Adams served in the SLPP cabinet from 1996 to 2007 because he was one of ex-President Ahmad Tejan Kabba(h)’s blue-eyed men despite him being an intellectual midget! Added to that, he was the SLPP National Organizing Secretary from 2002 to 2007. What a classic case of SLPPness! Even the current Secretary General of the SLPP, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, was reported by the Awoko newspaper of Friday 18 July 2014 to have confessed that “Okere Adams is vital to the SLPP”, adding that “the contribution of Okere Adams to the development of the SLPP has been overwhelming which could not be downplayed” (page 2). In order words, Mr Adams did contribute greatly to the SLPP’s cause and course to power.

But like the biblical Saul (who was later Christianized as Paul), Okere Adams has pretended or is pretending to have seen the light not on his way to Damascus but on the path to the “Agenda for Prosperity”. Imagine a man who had spent eleven years of his combative energy fighting for the total annihilation of the APC suddenly realizing that that same APC is a much better political organization than his SLPP. Mr Adams’s defection is not only a case of selfishness and personal aggrandizement but one of unforgivable ungratefulness. For a man who was catapulted from an uncouth slippers-wearing-munku to a neatly clad cabinet minister with unhindered access to state funds by the SLPP; leaving the SLPP on the flimsiest childish excuses is inexcusable. In fact, it is the highest degree of ingratitude.

I always have great respect for political stick-in-the-muds than political butterflies. I always admire Sierra Leoneans with political convictions. And I will always have high regard for people who stick by, or with, their political parties through thick and thin. Now that Okere Adams has reportedly formally applied to the APC Secretary General for full membership, I will not be surprised if he too starts trumpeting the APC ideals like follow SLPP defectors like Robin Fallay (who is now the APC deputy Publicity Secretary II) and Major Ismail Sengu Koroma who is now deputy Energy Minister in waiting.

But if one should subtract the moral and ethical aspects of Okere Adams’s defection, then one will be left with the clichéd political mantra of “politics is all about numbers”. So, in political arithmetic what does the defection of Okere Adams mean for the SLPP? In one sentence: Annihilation after the 2018 general elections. This is because the SLPP is still full of thousands of Okere Adams who are now waiting for the slightest opportunity to switch their allegiances to the ruling APC. If people like Robin Fallay and Okere Adams could switch allegiance to the APC after all what they gained from the SLPP, then what could one expect from those SLPPians who have never gained anything from their party?

And since the ruling APC might be in power for the next twenty-something years, as indicated by the current SLPP’s shoot-in-the-leg policies and its perennial intra-party squabbles, Okere Adams’s defection might be signifying the 2018 annihilation of the SLPP as more defections are in the pipeline.       


Where You There When They Crucified NASSIT?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

 By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop) : 

Every time I take a philosophical and commonsensical look at some of the happenings at the National Social Security Insurance Trust Fund (NASSIT), I realize that the only way an educated person in Sierra Leone could have a financially secured future is for that person to invest his or her life savings himself or herself. Not to trust it in the care of an institution infested with economic predators!

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In Krio colloquialism or adage, when the head of a fish is rotten; there is nothing one could do with the trunk or tail. For a very long time, those of us who have been critically following events at NASSIT have long come to the conclusion that its now formers Director-General Samuel Bangura, its Deputy Director-General (of Membership, Finance, Systems and Technology) Gibril Saccoh, and the Director of Investments and Projects Idris Turay, epitomized all what was wrong with NASSIT.

But what could have been expected from, or of, a man who was selling tickets at a London train station for donkey years? What could have been expected from a man who came for an interview with dangling jerry-curls straight from the saloon? What could have been expected from, or of, a man who just after attending the interview for the position of Director-General of NASSIT allegedly took some ladies on a “day’s out” at the Lumley Beach and bragged that “the job is already in the bag” because the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zainab Hawa Bangura, was one of his buddies? And what could have been expected from, or of, a man who was allegedly more interested in the rhythms of women’s buttocks at NASSIT than improving the Trust generally? Samuel Bangura, who is now being referred to in the past tense when the pronoun of Director-General of NASSIT is mentioned, was a classical example of a square peg being squeezed into a rectangle!

Despite it was said that during the interview Joseph Mans Jr (the current Deputy Director-General of Administration, Human Resources, Public Affairs and Customer Services), who is now acting as Director-General, performed very well and top the list; yet the jerry-curled ex-ticket seller at a London train station called Samuel Bangura was given the job. And NASSIT’s slide into degeneration began the very day Mr Bangura received his Letter of Appointment. Under his watch, NASSIT’s investments became classical examples of how not to invest people’s hard earned pension savings. It was also under his watch that that institution became a free-for-all honeycomb. In disrobed language, he was running NASSIT like an unqualified carpenter who was suddenly appointed CEO of an investment bank, as it were Idris Turay and Gibril Saccoh who were actually running the circus called NASSIT.

And talking—sorry, writing—about Gibril Saccoh? This man was more interested in mapping out strategies on how his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) would come back to power than helping protect poor people’s life savings and the Trust’s investments. During the 2012 national elections, Gibril Saccoh was allegedly said to be the chief fund raising organizer at NASSIT for the Maada Bio Campaign, with the hope that had Mr Bio won he would have been appointed Director-General. And since Mr Bio lost, he had been putting up nonchalant attitude towards his job with the thought that the more NASSIT slides into economic chaos the greater the chances of his SLPP coming back to power. Gibril Saccoh was more of an SLPP Fifth Columnist at NASSIT than someone who has that institution at heart!

And it was that lethal combination of a chronic inept Director-General, a partisan Deputy Director-General of Membership, Finance, Systems and Technology, and a hopelessly-clueless Director of Investments and Projects that has always given NASSIT the colouration of a good-intentioned institution going rotten. And it is not surprising that to prevent the entire basket of fishes from going bad, President Ernest Bai Koroma has finally decided to yank out the rotten ones to prevent the entire basket from total annihilation.

And one of the lessons learnt from recent NASSIT debacles is that when an institution is doing well and there is vacancy at the top; it will be wise to fill that post with an insider not an outsider. Samuel Bangura was an outsider who, before his appointment (or should I rightly write: his selection?), didn’t have any clue about the operations of NASSIT. He stumbled his way into the job and began groping like a blind man; and in the process organizing-ly disorganized everything at that once successful institution in his fumbling. The result had always been a disaster waiting to happen if he had not been yanked out!

But is Joseph Mans Jr who, according to the press release of 17 April 2014, “will hold down the duties of Director-General until a substantive holder of the office is recruited”, the most fitted person for the job of a caretaker Director-General at NASSIT? Well, only time will tell.

But who am I “to pass judgment over Israel”? The Negro spiritualists of yore would have asked. They would also have asked me: “Where you there when they crucified NASSIT?” I wasn’t there, Sir. Except that “sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble”, when I think about my mother’s NASSIT’s contributions; because I wouldn’t want her pension to be nailed on a cross!  



Friday, March 28th, 2014


Anthony K. Kamara (Sr) Winnipeg, Canada : 

Dear Dr Tam Baryo,

Thank you for the good work on this show and thanks also go to Mr Alex Terina CEO of Star Radio Sierra Leone the one and only Radio station with reception in many parts of the world. You will agree with me that there are always two views to any situation in life , those who like your show and those opposed to it for different reasons. That’s what life ia all about. In any country, there are always two groups of journalists, those who support the current political establishment  and see nothing wrong in what it does and those who loathe it and never see any good in its performance. This is normal and we got to accept it that way without any feeling of rancour. For unless there is criticisms of a system, the Government may feel it is always on the right path. Criticisms make a Government behave properly.

There are times I personally dislike the way you cover certain episodes simply because of its one sidedness. I was in Freetown when you covered the A K K versus a lady in China who sounded tearful on the show concerning her encounter with her former benefactor the Ambassador. The unfortunate thing about listeners is that the programme does not allow phone-in calls to give their opinion of the that unfortunate incident. Up to the time of my return A K K was never given a chance to give his side of the story. You even promised to buy her a ticket to go home and give her whole account on Monologue. No problem with that.  All listeners heard was one side of a story with the lady in tears be it fake or real as no one saw her. Monologue can be much more popular if you can feed the nation and listeners with a Pro and Con of any situation. You make a person seem guilty without getting his own side. Otherwise there is no doubt that Monologue has a World-wide popularity because of your investigative skills, your sense of humour and manner of presentation. The only ‘but’ is not allowing another side of the coin. For this it’s ‘kudos’ to you.

I listened to your show of March 15 which followed the passing away of the Late Alhaj Ahmed Tejan Kabba, former President of our country. I was particularly interested in your interview with Sheikh Swarray, the questions you put to him and how he tried to dodge the response. To remind readers here is a paraphrase of the questions:

President Kabba lived his life as a staunch muslim and according to the teachings of Islam as contained in the Holy Quran. Why is President Kabba not given the burial of a Muslim, that is, have him buried within 24 hours of his expiration?

Why is President Kabba not going to be burried in the grounds of Parliament on Tower Hill? This question was for Jarra Kawusu-Conteh who promised to get back to you in 25 or so minutes, but never came back.

President Kabba has been ailing for quite a long time prior to his death at his private home at Juba Hill. Even persons known to be his best friends, persons known to have been catapulted into positions where they licked their hands and fingers  never visited him while in his sick bed. Why?

On the Late President’s delayed burial, Sheikh gave his reason as President Koroma’s absence from the country. The question for the shekh is, Why does the country have a Vice President a staunch Muslim and an Alhaji for that matter? does the Vice President nor normally act in the absence of the President? President Koroma for whom the burial was delayed, according to Sheikh Swarray, is a practising Wesleyan Christian (not even a pastor) expected to lead mourners and sympathizers in prayer for the deceased? In my humble opinion, Religion should be above politics and the two must be completely separated and observe the teachings of the Quran for the muslim, otherwise what’s the point in a man struggling throughout his life time observing the teachings of a religion, praying five times a day, Fasting throughout his whole life, going on pilgrimage, helping the poor and needy only to be given the send off of politics. Sheikh is one of those who had the privilege of travelling to study in one of the countries of the Middle East given the Ph.D to return home and preach and interprete the religion to his people as he was taught, but only to give his personal interpretation of the Religion of the Holy Prophet. I am firmly convinced that President Ernest Koroma did not request delay of the internment of the Late Leader due to his absence because he knows he has someone to always represent him and do things in the right way. But the Sheikh was able to persuade the National Council of Imams to score political points for himself. What the Council of Imams did was not based on quranic teachings but on politics. I believe  President Tejan Kabba would not appreciate his delayed burial because when a man dies he needs immediate rest in his final resting place, hence the final universal wish R.I.P. (Requiescat in pace) or REST IN PEACE in the english. Sheikh Swarray must practise what the Holy Book says and not deviate. Tam-Baryo reminded him of Sanni Abacha’s death. Abacha died at about 0100 and by 0600 that very morning he had been buried. What about Omar Yaradua, his remains were immediately disposed of within 24 hours. Islam is no respecter of a corpse. Immediate burial saves the nation of thousands of dollars which might have been spent on elaborate, unnecessary and expensive ceremony to give the impression that he was very much loved. True as a human being, he was the darling of many and also the hated person  of perhaps many more. After all a corpse is a corpse; nobody wants it anymore, not even family members.  Funeral homes are not for muslims, but for Christians ( a people with a passion to display their wealth in death). Let us not perform double standards when we expire  for politics. Sheikh Swarray’s response was unconvincing.

On why President Kabba is not burried in the grounds of Parliament. First,  no country anywhere in the world turns its grounds of Parliament into a cemetry for present, past, or future leaders. Jarra Kawusu-Conteh could not get back to you as promised because  his bosses from whom he tried to get answers did not know the answers either.  Rather than tell the anxious nation he doesn’t know which would have been embarrassing for the young Communications Director he preferred to remain silent rather give a response which would one day come back to hunt State House. But let’s also not forget the fact that over 50 percent of staff at State House were born after 1964 and so have no answer to many if not most of these things. I’d be even surprised if anyone up there even knows why or give a convincing response.

The simple logical answer: the first Prime Minister Sir Milton Margai deserves that place as his final resting place. This was a unanimous ‘yea’ by our national parliament. Why? Sir Milton not only freed us from colonial bondage, but left us with the most important infrastructure a new country needed, I mean  that modern House of Parliament, a Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), the SALPOST and the LODGE at Hill Station. He also built out of pocket the MMCET at Goderich, the Milton Margai School for the Blind, the Chesire Home in Bo. That’s the way we, the nation os Sierra Leone chose to say our thanks to him. His achievements for this country are unparalleled. He is second to none. He is a true Sierra Leone soldier, a political champion for us. His successors take it from where he left off.

The only other leader who deserved a place on Tower Hill is President Siaka Stevens. Why? He went further to completely free us from the British Crown and gave us REPUBLICAN STATUS with our own Sierra leonean Head of State, he becoming the FIRST EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT of the  nation. Furthermore he transformed the former BROOKFIELDS STADIUM into what it is today. He gave us YOUYI BUILDING where most ministries are housed.l He started the 15 storey Sam Bangura’s Tower though completed under Ahmed Tejan Kabba. These achievements put the two leaders in a commanding position to deserve the two places on the grounds of Parliament.  No other president has a place in Parliament’s grounds except there is a future President who would build the Dream Bridge connecting   Kissy Terminal  to Tagrin.  Either you are the First or you are not or do something that excels all the others combined because of its huge expenditure. In this case  I hope the public will now understand why no other present, past  or future president will have a place on Tower hill. It does not matter if a President dies in office or as retiree. President Kabba knew he would not be burried on Tower hill hence he chose to lie by his Mom’s grave at the Kissy Road Cemetry. The nation has done what he willed in his life time. People must have the right to choose their place of burial except choosing Parliament’s grounds. If a leader forgot to choose his final resting place, his wife will decide or in her absence, family relations. Some people argue that because he he brought peace to Sierra Leone, he deserved burial up there.

The situation compares to the Olympic games. Either one is a gold medalist or is not. Silver and Bronze are consolation awards to encourage athletes to try again next time. If not the gold medal, one is a loser. Therefore in our national politics, there are only two political Gold Medalists, Sir Milton Margai and President Siaka Stevens, and no one else.The rest  till the end of time will have to make arrangements for their places of burial, and their choices will be respected. Can one imagine what the grounds of Parliament would look like 100 years from now  if every deceased President is buried up there. The area would be infested with ghosts who would be terrorizing the MPs and disrupt debates.

President Joseph Saidu Momoh like Sir Albert Margai have no place on Parliament. Hence Sir Albert chose his home town in Gbangbatoke. The place of birth is the best place to bury a leader who is not among the FIRST if he so chooses. Otherwise there is always a place at Kissy Road cemetry or even Race Course Road but surely not King Tom cemetry. The country has lost three former Heads of State who died out of office. President Stevens, Joseph Saidu Momoh, and now President Kabba.  Let’s not also forget that President Momoh was toppled in a military coup and therefore did not even deserve a cent of retirement benefits. For a leader to be treated and receive Retirement benefits, he must exit the stage gracefully; but once toppled, all benefits are lost. It means his people have rejected him. But President Kabba out of sympathetic considerations allowed President Momoh to return home and receive retirement benefits; a very humanitarian gesture by President Kabba.  Captain Valentine Strasser is not lucky to have similar compassionate treatment probably due to the summary executions that opened his rule. The nation cannot therefore reward a killer.

On President Kabba’s loss of friends during his period of retirement and ailment, honestly it is normal. He built up very many Sierra Leoneans to day, but once one retires, he ceases to be a magnet. No one cares about a retired leader. He remains unvisited by anyone except his family members. Power is gone and will never come back to him. The leader may not even be given a State funeral. If the system does not favour the idea, forget it. This explains the reasons why leaders try to make themselves irremovable from office with periodic amendment of constitututions and also explains why the military intervenes because when the people want change and the leaders refuse to accept. The army remains the only strong force to punch out a stubborn government. Once retired, no one cares about what they may have benefitted from a leader of yesterday. No more political favours, political appointments. What makes him a magnet is gone. True no one wants to be called former President because he looses friends and contacts, and it’s really a painful and saddistic experience. But our leaders know fully well that they are in for 10 years at the end of which they got to exit the stage or multiply  enemies.

I also listened to the commentary from Star Radio, thanks to Mr Terrina’s Star Radio. Throughout, I did not hear any mention of a single Head of State from the Sub region attending the funeral. Perhaps I missed that part of the commentary. But assuming that no foreign Head of State attended, it again sends the message that one loses even fellow Statesmen or neighbouring Heads of state. They are sitting Heads of State, while you are are described as Former. That adjective ‘Former’ or ‘Past’ Head of State makes you unmagnetic and  and therefore unattractive. You no longer talk the same language. While in office a Leader has hundreds of friends but with power slipping away friendship flies out of the window. Many may not even attend their funerals because no one’s presence seems to matter in a funeral of hundreds or thousands.

Let me conclude that Monologue is a popular weekly Radio programme, but whatever your personal opinion of a situation, let listeners get the other side of a problem, and they will pass the verdict. Listeners never feel bored bvecause it’s a once a week affair. Otherwise, thank you for Monologue.



Zero-Tolerance for Anti-FGM Campaigns in Africa?

Friday, February 21st, 2014



The International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, a day sponsored by the UN was first observed on February 6, 2003 to create awareness of female genital mutilation (FGM) and to promote its eradication.  Though, the United Nations and other international organizations characterize FGM as nothing more than child abuse, supporters of female genital surgeries reject the “term mutilation” and see anti-FGM campaigns as an affront to their basic human rights to equality, dignity and self determination.

Fuambai Sia Ahmadu is a Sierra Leonean medical anthropologist based in Washington, DC who describes herself as a third wave feminist activist.  I caught up with Dr. Ahmadu recently to share her thoughts and perspectives on the observation of International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, the re-launch of her SIA Magazine and African Woman Are Free to Choose (AWA-FC).

This is a transcript of some of what she said during the interview.

This is the anniversary of our first interview last year on Feb 6th, International Zero-Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation Day.  The interview in Newstime Africa online publication, received widespread attention almost overnight.  Clearly, some people are listening.  What have you been doing since?

Dennis, it is good that people are listening.  Especially on a day like today when it appears we have capitulated to the definition of African women’s bodies as “mutilated”.  As descendants of Africans with our history of enslavement, imperialism and colonialism, we have to be very careful when we are shamed into forgetting or denigrating our culture, our past, and our traditions.  By labeling circumcised African women as “mutilated” and “oppressed” and our cultures as “barbaric” – some feminists even say “sadomasochistic” – the financiers of anti-FGM campaigns who are largely white, educated, middle-class or wealthy women and men continue to define for us who we can and cannot be as African women, how we can or cannot feel, what we can or cannot do, and what we can or cannot appreciate about our histories, our bodies and our own sexual organs.

Our interview was published just after my appearance on SBS-TV, Insight Program, in Australia.  The show was appropriately called, “Breaking the Taboo”.  This was perhaps the first time that western audiences got to hear a more balanced view of African female genital surgeries.  It was the first time I “came out” so to speak in a public way to engage with others about my own experience and my support of what we call Bondo in Sierra Leone.  I spent the first half of the year giving talks at universities, academic seminars and conferences.  It is amazing how receptive normal, reasonable and liberal thinking people are when they hear my story and the perspective of millions of African women and girls who continue to celebrate what we call female circumcision.

The second half of the year I spent quietly, writing and editing several manuscripts for publication this year.  I have worked with other women to re-launch SiA Magazine and African Women Are Free to Choose (AWA-FC).  SiA Magazine began in 2009 as a light, Afropolitan women’s fashion, entertainment quarterly aimed mainly at Sierra Leonean women in the diaspora.  But the new magazine is more serious, African third wave feminism for circumcised women who support their tradition.   AWA-FC is a budding grassroots global movement I co-founded to raise awareness among circumcised African girls and women about the denigrating psychosexual impact of anti-FGM campaigns and blatant infringements on our basic human rights and constitutional rights in the countries in which we reside.  My close female relatives joke that I am not a feminist but a Bondo activist.  Indeed, for me Bondo is and has always been radical, grassroots African feminist activism – long before western women awakened to a consciousness of their own oppression.

You have mentioned quite a few things here that I’m sure people want to know more about – especially many westerners or even other Africans who are from ethnic groups that do not practice female genital modifications.  Many of us are familiar with your work and your open support for female circumcision and want to be as objective as possible in understanding and representing your views.  What is Bondo exactly?

Well first, Bondo refers to the various traditional women’s associations (many use the misnomer “secret societies”) in Sierra Leone that manage female initiation, which includes but cannot be reduced to customary female genital surgeries.  Bondo also refers to the entire process of this transition to womanhood, the powerful masquerade owned by the women, as well as the physical operation itself.  The parallel for males is Poro.  Poro is responsible for traditional male initiation and also includes men’s masquerades and customary male genital surgeries or male circumcision.  Female and male circumcision are considered complementary and interdependent.  Part of the task of SiA Magazine and AWA-FC is to begin the necessary weeding out or sifting through those external meanings that have been imported, imposed and incorporated into the traditional meanings – not just by western feminists and anti-FGM activists over the last 40 years but by the harbingers of Abrahamic religions (that is, Judaism, Christianity and Islam).

So, why the name SiA Magazine?  I know it’s your name as well but is there another reason why you decided on the name SiA?

The name for the initial African women’s lifestyle magazine was Sierra Afrique.  My business partner, also a Sierra Leonean, thought it would be kind of cool to add an “i” in the middle that would stand for “international” but would also signify my name, the name of Sierra Leone’s First Lady and thousands of other women in the country.  Sia is commonly known as the name of the first born girl among the Kono (and some Kissy) in the east of Sierra Leone.  Saa is the name of the first born boy.  So, the name also symbolizes maternal responsibility (and Saa would signify paternal responsibility).  This female/male gender balance and attention to the hierarchical position of the first born represents for me the core of gender roles in many African societies and explains why our feminism differ at times from western feminism – often to the dismay of our transatlantic sisters.

But I found out only two years ago, through what seemed like a bizarre coincidence, that Sia/Saa was also the name of the “firstborn” female/male in Egyptian or Memphite theology.  And here’s the part that really threw me – Sia/Saa was created by the Supreme God from the blood of his/her own circumcision!  This Memphite religion is literally written in stone, the Shabaka Stone, which completes the name of the magazine – SiA and The Shabaka Stone.

The Shabaka Stone predates the writing of Genesis and the Torah and points to a credible origin of the most important symbolic act in Abrahamic religions – circumcision.  Although male circumcision is not a requirement under Christianity, unlike with Judaism and Islam, the symbolism of the blood of circumcision as Christ himself, remains very important.

More important for African descendants Dennis, the creation of the firstborn, Sia/Saa, through the blood of divine circumcision points to a probable origin of both female and male circumcision among Mande peoples, which include the Kono, perhaps hundreds if not thousands of years before the Nubian kings took over all of Egypt.

One thing that western feminists need to understand is that the original ideology that supports these practices among peoples of Mande or Nubian descent is profoundly matriarchal and not patriarchal, in contrast with the Abrahamic traditions.  SiA magazine was created in part to make this hidden knowledge available and accessible to modern day women and men from ethnic groups that practice both female and male circumcision as complementary experiences.

With the global anti-FGM movement showing no signs of backing down in what they say is a war against the “mutilation” of girls and women and against Gender Based Violence in general, what do you really hope to accomplish with this new magazine and the grassroots movement?

SiA Magazine is a reclaiming of this hidden part of our history as Africans.  There is a dirty word that is used to deter educated, liberal, westernized African descendants like you and me from inquiring into our histories and especially questioning the unnerving parallels between western civilization, the Abrahamic faiths and that of the ancient Egyptians or Nubians – “Afrocentrism”.  We don’t want to be labeled Afrocentrics – a term that discredited many fine historians, sociologists and anthropologists in the early 70s and 80s – so, our generation of intellectuals don’t go there.  A few of us may sneak into the Nubian boutique at the local mall, look over our shoulders to make sure no one sees us, lower our heads and walk quickly past the burning incense and mini ornaments of black pharaohs, to the shelves at the back where we can find books by Cheikh Anta Diop, Walter Rodney, Franz Fanon etc.  We read these things in private, shake our heads in private, knowing that we have much too much at stake to really rock the boat of our comfortable modern lives or grand aspirations to Oprah-like success in corporate America.

My hope is that SiA Magazine will help some of us get over ourselves and who we think we are in today’s global economy.  Hello, remember we have a black President in America.   We have a black First Lady holding court in the big White House.  Not only that, the President is of direct African descent.  Like my dad and the dads of many other first generation Americans, Obama’s dad immigrated to the US from Africa.  Like my dad and the dads of other Africans I know, papa Obama came as an African scholar and was enrolled at a prominent university, with the intention – whatever his personal character flaws – of returning to his homeland to develop the country during the early years of African Independence.

We are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made by these audacious African men and women but we have somehow lost the spirit of independence of the 50s, 60s and early 70s.  We have abandoned the revolution – we apologize and compromise for UN jobs, government posts and contracts, high-powered consultancies, cushiony faculty appointments, we collude and connive to become award winning journalists, best-selling authors and Nobel Prize laureates – we agree to the “mutilation” of our African spirit.

SiA Magazine is for me and I hope for others like me, the voice of that spirit that says it is okay to be African.  We give permission to ourselves to celebrate ourselves, our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, our culture and our traditions.  Yes, we can wear our hair natural – for those who do – and sport African couture while rocking boardrooms on Wall Street, winning Nobel Prizes, Oscar awards, or making millions in the hip-hop industry.  All that is good and well and I say bravo to those who show that we can be as “modern”, “global”, chic, and successful as our Euro American and Black American counterparts.

But, and I say this especially to my Bondo sisters in the diaspora, it is also okay to be African by our own standards, to enjoy our kinfolk back home, to take part in the grand masquerades and yes, to dance in our initiation ceremonies. That is what I believe third wave feminism is all about – defining for ourselves who we are and choose to be.  And, for those of us women and men who are descended from early Mande civilizations in the Niger Valley and from the great Nubians or Egyptian civilizations that followed, it is okay for us to prefer, enjoy and celebrate our circumcised bodies.

Read Part Two of Dennis Kabbatto’s interview with Dr. Fuambai Sia Ahmadu, including an open letter to the President of Sierra Leone by African Women are Free to Choose (AWA-FC)  in the 5th edition of SiA Magazine, which will be available on February 23, 2014 in PDF


President Ernest Koroma launches “Pay No Bribe Campaign” in Sierra Leone

Friday, February 21st, 2014



By State House Communications Unit

President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday 20th February said that the “Pay No Bribe Campaign” would primarily ensure that Service Charters for key institutions and agencies nationwide are printed and disseminated so that citizens are aware of services provided with costs and expected service delivery time. “Each Service Charter shall have the ACC hotline numbers to report incidences of corruption and administrative decadence/ bottlenecks,” he noted, and vowed that as a nation, we will not relent in the fight to tackle corruption in the country.

The President admitted that although there are still challenges, government’s determination and dedication to meeting these challenges is stronger than ever before. He also maintained that the hosting of the Mo Ibrahim State of Governance Seminar in Africa by government demonstrates its continued commitment to promoting democratic good governance, transparency and accountability.

“Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, through support from DFID, we are launching a pilot study to identify key institutions that will be targeted for reporting bribery and, by May this year, we will install a data management system at the ACC manned by an independent service provider mandated to receive reports via phone calls and text messages on incidences of petty bribery and grand corruption.” President Koroma further noted that the roles and involvement of civil society in the success of the war on graft through the “Pay No Bribe Campaign” is immeasurable; “we count on your cooperation; we will protect whistle blowers; we will ensure their confidentiality. This is a fight for everybody; this is a fight for integrity in the offices, in the banks, the markets, the streets, in the classrooms, the courtrooms and the boardrooms,” President Koroma urged.

State House Chief of Staff, Dr Richard Konteh said in his welcome address that the hosting of a Mo Ibrahim Seminar on governance in Africa by the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) is a testament to President Koroma’s dynamic leadership and resolve to transform the country by upholding the tenets of the rule of law, transparency and accountability and by introducing sound management of natural resources and proper fiscal management.

Today’s seminar and launch of the “Pay No Bribe Campaign”, he stated, is a transformative deep-dive by the GoSL to promote transparency and accountability and to realign the war against corruption.

Board Member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Abdoulie Janneh commended President Koroma for his desire and commitment to launch the “Pay no Bribe Campaign” in Sierra Leone.

African Development Bank Director of Governance Department, Isaac Lobe noted that the presence of the President at the launching ceremony is an attestation of his commitment to governance and tackling corruption. He reiterated the Bank’s continued support for Sierra Leone’s efforts at achieving good governance and the “Pay no Bribe Campaign”.

Anti-Corruption Czar, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara said in his very entertaining presentation that today marks a red letter day as “we take a positive step forward in the fight against corruption in our country.” He called for awareness raising activities, especially among youth such as jogging against bribery or observing a “No Bribe Day” at the Immigration Department.

According to the Anti-Corruption Czar, who quoted the Afrobarometer survey, almost 1 in 5 people (16%) have paid a bribe one or more times to a government official in the past year in order to get an official document or permit. Paying a bribe to get medical treatment as well as avoid a problem with the police were the other two most cited reasons for bribery, he stressed. He urged all to consider bribery as a common enemy.

Shortly after President Koroma officially opened the Mo Ibrahim Seminar on State of Governance in Africa and the Launch of the “Pay No Bribe Campaign”, an MOU on “Pay No Bribe Campaign” was signed between the Office of the Chief of Staff at State House (OCOS) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Department for International Development (DFID). The sum of 4.7 Million British Pounds Sterling has been set aside by DFID in support of the campaign to end bribery.

Dr Richard Konteh, Joseph F. Kamara and Cynthia Rowe signed for the OCOS, ACC and DFID respectively.

No Time For Maada Bio’s Madness

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop) : 

A letter, purportedly written by the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP)’s failed 2012 presidential candidate, Julius Maada Bio, shows the thought-process of a confused mind seeking public attention. Or it shows the deranged ranting of a desperate soapbox politician whose audience has dwindled but is so stupid not to take notice of his thin audience.

That letter (definitely written by a ghost writer who seems to have failed his Bar exams at the first try), tells the reader that when a political party, which prided itself to have “brains”, decides to field in cricketers in a football match; the aura in that stadium will be pregnant with chuckled amazement! I couldn’t help it but to chuckle when Maada Bio states that, “…in my last radio interview on 98.1 FM [where else could he have gone?], I admonished that your Government should endeavor to avoid unnecessary unilateral interference with the Constitution…Despite these reservations, your Government did not hesitate to influence the vote in parliament”.

I deliberately quoted those lines above to really show the confused mind of Maada Bio. The “unilateral interference with the Constitution”, which he is writing about refers to the election of a new Speaker of Parliament. For Mr Bio to make such a statement shows that he is subtly telling Sierra Leoneans, outside his party, that he is now a Shepard with dwindling sheep. For it has now been the vogue of the SLPP to walk out of parliament each time they disagree with what is being tabled or debated in the House. But in the case of the election for the Speaker of Parliament; the SLPP Members of Parliament did not only field in a candidate from their own party (Dr Bubuakie Jabbie) but overwhelmingly voted for the ruling All People’s Congress’s candidate Hon. SBB. Dumbuya which infuriated the pro-SLPP The Democrat newspaper that it screamed in its Friday 24 January 2014 edition that “SLPP MPs Shame Their People”.

The singular action of the SLPP MPs nominating and seconding the nominations of APC candidates shows that Maada Bio’s letter, mentioning “unilateral interference with the Constitution”, shows that he is out of sync with the reality on the ground. But what is expected from or of a man who is now behaving according to the onomatopoeic sound of his middle name, Maada”? Or is Maada Bio telling us that his SLPP MPs were so broke that day that they had to partake in that “unilateral interference with the Constitution” of voting a new Speaker because they badly needed the sitting fee?

But I can understand the knee-jack action from a man like Maada Bio whose chi (to quote the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe) seems to have come from the same womb with political madness and political incorrectness. For if not political madness, how could he have written that President Koroma “pushed for the amendment of Section 79(1) because you [the President] harbors some bigger agenda, which does not exclude your ambition for a Third Term in office”. For Bio to exhibit such madness at a time when President Koroma has repeatedly and tirelessly pronounced that his “name will not be on the ballot paper in 2018” could be compared to a Sixth Form pupil studying Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” for his A’ Levels long after that play had been taken off the syllabus.

And to exhibit his ignorance of the 1965 Public Order Act, Maada Bio increases his stupidity to a crescendo when he writes that, “…there have been the ugly spectacles of journalists being arrested and detained”.  Common sense dictates that journalists in Sierra Leone can only be arrested and detained when they violate the 1965 Public Order Act which was authored by the SLPP of Sir Albert Margai; used by the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) of Maada Bio and the SLPP of Ahmad Tejan Kabba(h)! And for the “arrested and detained” journalists to have prostrated and begged President Koroma for forgiveness should have told Bio that indeed the journalists believed, and still believe, that they had committed crimes for which they should ask for forgiveness!

But on the whole, I have always liked the manner in which President Ernest Bai Koroma has been dismissive of Maada Bio’s ranting just the same way a disciplinarian principal would do to a chronically stupid pupil. During the 2012 election, when Maada’s madness prompted him to ask for a televised debate with his President; the Head of State figuratively asked a psychiatrist to examine his barren pate. Few months ago, when Maada’s madness itched him again to ask for a political duel with President Koroma on national issues; his constitutionally elected President metaphorically treated him like a faeces-filled “black plastic bag” (to use the uncouth Krio colloquial). And now that Maada’s newfound madness has taken the form of “an Open Letter to President Koroma”; it will be treated like the Shakespearean idiot’s tale.  

Street Traders and State Power

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Street Traders and State Power

Yusuf Bangura

Department of Political Science

Fourah Bay College, Freetown

February 2014

There have been sporadic confrontations between state authorities and street traders over the use of public spaces in Freetown. These confrontations on the streets and pavements of the city now seem to occur every year with no sign of meaningful resolution.

Streets are, by law, meant to facilitate the movement of vehicles, and pavements help pedestrians to move around cities without fear of accidents.



In the current confrontation, state authorities want to uphold the law and reclaim ownership of the streets, while traders complain about the lack of alternative spaces to sell their wares and survive in an economy that has failed to generate productive jobs for the mass of underemployed or unemployed youth.

Many people will agree that Freetown is one of the most congested, filthy, unplanned and under-resourced cities in the world where the law hardly operates in terms of how public spaces are used.

The basic infrastructure of roads, electricity, water and housing that served about 300,000 people in the 1960s and 1970s now serves close to two million people. Public spaces are regarded as open spaces that are devoid of ownership, and can be appropriated by anyone to the exclusion or discomfort of others.

A “stroll” through the central business district, starting from the intersection of Percival Street and Lightfoot Boston Street (now called Belgium) to Up Gun at the end of Kissy Road can be a real nightmare, especially to a first visitor. Howe Street, Wilberforce Street, Ecowas Street, Garrison Street, Upper East Street, Short Street, Back Street, Lumley Street, Sackville Street, Regent Road, Regent Street, Abacha Street and Fourah Bay Road have been comprehensively transformed into a single seamless market that is virtually out of the reach of the law. Some of these streets were abandoned to the traders and became full markets when Operation WID was launched in 2013 and traders were forced to leave the thoroughfare at the centre of town, Siaka Stevens Street. That operation, it seems, simply produced a balloon effect and police or state power was overstretched and ultimately rendered ineffective.

Can the state succeed in its current drive to rid the streets of traders? Why have traders succeeded in defying the law under all governments since the 1980s? What needs to be done to restore the rules that governed the use of public spaces in the 1960s and 1970s when most citizens, including traders, obeyed the rules?

One popular explanation for state failure in evicting the traders from the streets is that the traders are a key constituency of the ruling party, which will lose votes if it resolutely executes the law. I want to suggest that the problem of state failure to reclaim the streets goes well beyond partisan politics. Over the years, the state has experienced two kinds of failure that may explain its lack of success in dealing with the traders: development failure and failure of state provisioning of mega markets that will serve the majority of traders.

Institutional analysis offers insights on why the state is unlikely to succeed in its current track of decongesting the streets. The cost of enforcing rules is high when a large number of people do not believe in them. The current pathology of mass street trading can be traced to two shocks: the economic crisis of the 1980s when state provisioning of basic services and living standards plummeted, and the war of 1991-2002, which fuelled an unprecedented mass migration of people to the city.

The crisis and the war strained the capacity of state officials to enforce rules of any kind. An institutional vacuum emerged. The urban dispossessed or underclass and new migrants with few employment opportunities moved into public spaces, encountering little resistance from public authorities. Over time, the old rules lost their significance, and new rules were created by the new occupants. These new rules emphasize effective and continuous occupation of a spot on a public space as a right of ownership or right to trade. Networks of group support and self-policing were constructed to sustain livelihoods. These new informal or illegal rules have been in force for more than three decades; they now regulate in significant ways how public spaces are used by a large number of people.

Reverting to the old formal rules through appeals to the traders or the use of force is unlikely to be effective if attention is not given to the institutional change that has occurred, including the unregulated and unprotected livelihood strategies that have spawned the change. The key issue is how to get the majority of street traders to become law abiding citizens. Relying only on law enforcement to revert to the status quo ante of more than 30 years ago has very high policing costs and may generate strong negative social outcomes.

Getting the traders off the streets requires one or two big initiatives, which have so far not been forthcoming from the state. The first is how to tackle the development failure. By this I mean generating development that will provide jobs to the youths who now rule the streets. Surely, employment-generating growth is recognized in the government’s Agenda for Prosperity, and economic growth has been spectacular in the last few years, thanks to the mining sector. However, mineral-led growth has done little to absorb the surplus labour on the streets; and the various small-scale public works, training and micro-finance programmes and state-created youth agencies and activities have had limited impact. Indeed, the micro finance programmes may have the unintended effect of further keeping the traders who receive loans on the streets. Agri-business and strategic partnerships between the state and local entrepreneurs, including the top cadre of financially-rich “Belgium Traders”, to diversify into productive industrial activities may hold promise, but will require effective industrial policy, which a weak state, such as Sierra Leone’s, may not be able to pursue or sustain.

The second is the construction of mega markets that will absorb the majority of street traders.  Sierra Leone cannot boast of a single mega market that is comparable to markets in Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire or Senegal, for instance. Markets in Freetown have not been improved beyond what they were in the 1960s and 1970s when street trading was minimal. The most spectacular illustration of state failure in market provisioning is the so-called market that has been constructed at Sewa Grounds (Park), which is meant to accommodate  the Abacha Street traders. The market consists of a building, which looks like a school, and a few rows of tin shacks (pan bodi) that can hardly accommodate 20 percent of the traders at Abacha Street. Most of the traders at Abacha Street do not have tables on the pavements, but are actually on the street itself hawking a few items. It will be difficult to lure such traders to the “pan bodi” structures at Sewa Grounds. A mega market with four floors and underground parking facilities can be built at the park to release a lot of the pressure on the surrounding streets.

A standard refrain of city council officials is that most of the markets are empty, so traders should not complain about lack of market provisioning. However, on this issue, traders seem more rational than council officials. If a market cannot accommodate more than 50 percent of traders in an area, no trader will want to occupy it, since the majority will be trading on the streets and will enjoy an advantage in reaching buyers who may not enter the market if they can get what they want on the streets. This may explain why only two markets are fully occupied by traders in Freetown: Big Market and Up Gun Market. In these two markets, there are hardly any street traders.

In conclusion, I submit that development failure and failure of mega market provisioning should be taken seriously by state officials. They impose serious constraints on the capacity of the state to enforce its rules on street trading. The failures in development and provisioning may explain the choice of sporadic intervention by the state to reclaim the streets. To sustain its legitimacy, the state needs to be seen by the broad public to be restoring sanity on the streets, but it has been consistently shown that it cannot sustain its interventions. Sporadic intervention itself is a reflection of state weakness. In other words, the state cannot implement its rules routinely. In this sense, it is not a law and order state; so it engages in sporadic threats and punitive actions. It is only in this context, that we can understand the additional problem of partisan politics in constraining state actions. The traders know that the state cannot sustain its punitive actions; they may withdraw for a few days or even weeks and return on the streets and pavements with a vengeance.


Mainstreaming agriculture in the development agenda of Sierra Leone

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013


 By Umaru S. Jah, IA Germany :


Sierra Leone is a blessed country. A country blessed with multiple forms of natural resources.  If riches are only measured in terms of the mineral deposits a country possesses, then this small West African nation of ours is one of the richest countries in the world.


In fact sometimes when I attend international confabs in Europe, I find myself in a dilemma – not wanting to detest claims from other delegates that my country is very rich but as well finding it difficult to explain why for so long in the past Sierra Leone ironically but prominently occupied the “one of the poorest countries on the planet” position in the international development scale.


However, the fact that most of such delegates are very well conversant with contemporary development trends in most African countries strengthened my position in such lunch-time, unofficial side discussions. Sierra Leone has been a success story in post-war reconstruction and development primarily because of the policies being implemented in the last seven years – the foundations for solid economic growth has been built; the present trends are positive and forecasts for economic growth look even more positive.


What is perhaps worth mentioning here which in most cases has not been in the forefront on discussions about wealth in mineral resources is that as much as they are a blessing, they could still be a curse – a point of conflict, destruction and bloodshed.  This happens when there is an over-reliance on such resources as the only source of wealth creation, livelihood and economic growth:


When the farmers refused to go to their farms because they want fast riches from diamond mining; when our youths opt to go to the mines instead of schools, tertiary institutions and universities to gain education;  and above all when our government fails to explore alternative ways to ensure sustainable economic growth and concentrate solely on the natural resources sector.


Well we are no strangers to what might befall a country in such circumstances. I need not delve into the over-stated fact of the causes of the Sierra Leone conflict – rampant corruption, mismanagement of and over-reliance on our natural resources and so on. What I want to bring into focus in this piece however is how the present administration has been taking strides to place more attention on agricultural development as a vehicle for livelihood and sustainable economic growth. To understand better the President and his government´s commitment to developing the agriculture sector, I want to stroll down to few years back.


During the 2008 World Food Day celebrations held in Magburaka, no less a person than President  Koroma openly declared agriculture as the top priority of the Government after the energy sector. This was clearly spelt out in the “Agenda for Change” which pursued programmes that have increased agricultural productivity, promoted commercial agriculture, improved agricultural research and extension delivery systems, among others.


In addition, in support of the president´s declaration, a Presidential Task Force on Agriculture was established to take the lead in the coordination and implementation of the strategic framework for agricultural development to trigger socio-economic growth. The President is chairman of that taskforce.


This declaration was followed by increased budgetary allocation to agriculture from 2.2% in 2008 to 7.7% of the total national budget in 2009 to a further increase of 9.9% in 2010. This enhanced the implementation of the mechanical cultivation programme nationwide which resulted in extensively increasing areas under cultivation.


Furthermore, in 2009, the government with support from its partners designed the National Sustainable Agriculture Development Plan 2010-2030, a roadmap for moving agriculture, forestry and fisheries forward to both address the country’s growing needs due to population growth and to create additional income to the national economy. In the same year, to demonstrate its commitment further on 22 September 2009 the government signed the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme  (CAADP) compact, agreeing to raise the percentage of the budget spent on agriculture to 10, percent a commitment it has adhered to.


These interventions and sound government initiatives have been paying off. Earlier this year, the hardworking Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sam Sesay, highlighted the progress made so far: Rice production has increased by 35%, cassava by 34%, sweet potato by 34%, palm oil more than double, cocoa and coffee grown by more than one-half above the status in 2007. Subsequently, the total importation of rice and other foodstuffs into the country has reduced to more than half of its former percentage and has resulted to a drop from thirty-two million United States dollars (US$32m) to fifteen million United States dollars (US$15m), the Minister disclosed.


These achievements made already will be further built on in the Agenda for Prosperity. In fact, the government placed agricultural development right at the centre of that prosperity agenda.  “ Of the 5.7 billion dollars estimates to fund the Agenda for Prosperity over the next five years, over a quarter, about 1.6 billion dollars, is earmarked for the sector,” President Koroma recently revealed at a confab in Freetown.


This is not to say there have not been challenges. Certainly there are always challenges. As President Koroma himself recently reiterated, to continue to develop our agricultural sector to achieve the sound vision of Sierra Leone becoming a middle income country in 22 years, “we need to get land governance right, we need to get our monitoring and evaluation right, we need to attract more private sector investment, we need to continue the transformation of farmer financing, and more importantly we need to develop a comprehensive program for research and extension.”

These are challenging tasks! Notwithstanding, with the present political will, vision and framework that mainstream agriculture in the development agenda of Sierra Leone, those challenges will not only be overcome, but a solid pathway to sustainable economic growth is gradually being carved.